Your burning questions about college answered. We interviewed Program Assistants Lily Peterson and Peter Myers for their college search stories and advice.
College: Pitzer College
When in high school did you start looking at colleges?
I started visiting schools my sophomore year but it wasn’t until junior year that I was serious about the schools I visited.
Was the size of the school a factor in your search and selection?
Yes! I knew that I wanted to go to a smaller college because I wanted small class sizes and more opportunities to make relationships with professors. At the same time I didn’t want to feel trapped or isolated. Pitzer College is the perfect balance because it is part of the Claremont Consortium which is made up of five undergraduate colleges: Pomona, Claremont McKenna, Scripps, and Harvey Mudd. At Pitzer I reap all the benefits of being at a small school, but I also get to take classes, attend events, hear speakers, and eat food at all of the other colleges!
You can read more about the Claremont Consortium here<http://www.claremont.edu/>.
Why did you ultimately choose Pitzer?
As someone who didn’t know what I wanted to major in, I knew I wanted to receive a liberal arts education at a school that would support me in exploring my many interests. Additionally, I resonated with the values of the college. When I visited, I found the community to be welcoming, relaxed, and engaged. One of my favorite things about Pitzer (other than the food) is that although people hold very different opinions and values they are open and accepting of diversity.
My favorite part about being at the Claremont Colleges is that at Pitzer I have all the advantages of of being at a small school, while still having the opportunity to take classes, attend events, join clubs, and eat food at Harvey Mudd, Scripps, Pomona, or Claremont McKenna!
What is there to do in the surrounding area of Pitzer? Do most people stay on campus?
The city of Claremont is small and charming. Activities in the area are limited mostly to eating and shopping. Many students take day or weekend trips to the San Gabriel Mountains or Joshua Tree National Park. Students do spend most of their time on campus, but luckily there are so many activities to be involved in that you want to stay on campus.
What’s your favorite class at the moment?
At the moment I am studying abroad in Italy so my favorite classes are Italian and Art History! Another great thing about Pitzer is that it encourages its students to study abroad and has many programs available. I am even planning on studying abroad again next year!
What questions should you ask your college tour guide?
I would ask: What are the students like? Are they happy? Are they stressed?
What do you love most about Pitzer?
When I walk onto Pitzer’s campus I immediately feel like I am in a safe space. Although people hold very different opinions and values they are open and accepting of diversity.
What about the food?
You will never go hungry as a student at Pitzer College. Pitzer offers healthy and delicious meals. If you do get sick of Pitzer you can eat at any of the other colleges!
College: Graduate of Wesleyan University
Studied: An interdisciplinary mix of history, philosophy, and literature.
When in high school did you start looking at colleges?
My college search was pretty arbitrary, and I think I’m very lucky that I ended up at the school I did, a school I really loved. I started thinking about college near the middle or end of my junior year, and did some college visits over the summer before my senior year. I didn’t really know what I wanted, so I just looked at the most prestigious colleges with a software my high school used–it employed an algorithm generated by GPA/test score data. It told me what schools I was a “competitive” applicant for. I also looked college mailings, heard about schools through word of mouth or found schools on Wikipedia (this is how I first heard of Wesleyan, the school I ended up attending).
How many schools did you look at?
I visited like 10-15 schools, applied to 12 (mostly chosen, as I said before, arbitrarily), got accepted at 6.
Was the location of the school important to you?
As far as location goes, I looked at schools in both cities and smaller towns, mostly in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast, Chicago area and one school on the West Coast. I didn’t want to be out in the middle of nowhere, but I didn’t need to be in NYC or Philadelphia by any means.
Size was probably one of the main things I thought about when choosing schools to apply to. For most of the process, I thought I wanted to go to a mid-sized school, maybe four to ten thousand people. Almost all the schools I applied to were in that range. But it was Wesleyan (about 2700 undergrads), that I actually ended up going to. It wasn’t until April, when I had to get down to it and decide what I was going to do with myself for the next four years, that realized I wanted to go to a small school, with a close-knit campus community where I’d be able to meet people easily. I didn’t realize a smaller school was what I wanted until the very end of my college search.
What were the key qualities you were looking for in a school?
Three key qualities I looked for: academics, first and foremost. Do they offer the things I am (or think I might possibly be) interested in studying? Are the students as serious about academics as I am? The second one would be the campus community/culture. What is the social scene like? Is it dominated by Greek Life? Do people live mostly far off campus or nearby? The third quality: surroundings. Is it in a city? A small town? Somewhere in between? Wherever it is, is it a place I’m comfortable with?
What was the student body and culture at Wesleyan like?
As for what I loved most about Wesleyan…there are two answers that immediately come to mind: the people and the academic environment. Those two things aren’t really separable, because they co-constituted each other and thus created the one thing that I loved most about Wesleyan: the community of ideas I was a part of. By that I mean being constantly surrounded by people who were as passionate about talking about the things that I was. The conversations we had in lectures or seminars didn’t end when class let out, but continued, evolved, and morphed into beasts of their own. I remember my freshman year advisor (who was also the professor most responsible for whipping me into shape academically for the first couple semesters I was there–his use of the word “lurid” to describe my writing was a much needed wake-up call for my 19-year-old self) telling me that the most important things in college you learn outside of class, which I think is definitely true.
Name three of your favorite classes of all time
My three favorite classes would be a class called “Modernity and the Work of History,” which I took the spring of my junior year. In addition to directly inspiring my thesis topic, the class was also one of the most fun I took in college. It was a small seminar, just seven students, including me, and a fantastic professor. I took Antiquity Colloquium for my major- a larger seminar (20 students and 2 professors), but we still had a lot of fascinating discussions. My third favorite class- all five writing classes I took, just because they were all challenging, valuable and they were all part of the process that resulted in me writing the way I do now.